As Broncos head of football operations John Elway tells Mike Klis, Ryan Clady is indeed going nowhere:
"We're going to tag him...We'd like to work something out, like we did last year," Elway said, referring to contract negotiations with Clady that broke off before training camp. "Things have changed a little bit because he's coming off a shoulder surgery. But we like Ryan. We like him a lot as a player and we'd like to get something done."
Elway is referring to the under-market figure of $28M in guarantees the Broncos had offered their left tackle last summer, and he makes a point of stressing Denver's only leverage - Clady's shoulder injury, which Klis reports was a rotator cuff issue.
According to Klis, David Bruton is also a priority among the team's own pending unrestricted free agents, which leaves Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan, Dan Koppen, and Jim Leonhard as notable omissions.
That Brandon Stokley isn't mentioned doesn't necessarily have meaning though, as the Slot Machine has made clear he's either going to be playing in Denver in 2013, or no place at all.
Of course, you already know everything you need to know about the franchise tag/tender process from the FAQ we posted on Tuesday.
It's currently presumed that Denver will use its exclusive tag on Clady, but it's far from clear (to us) that's the route the team should choose.
As important as Clady is to the Broncos, would anyone turn down two first-round picks in return for him? Because that would be the compensation coming back to Denver, were they to use their non-exclusive tag, and have another team sign Clady.
We can see several arguments for and against going with the non-exclusive tag:
- Peyton Manning never had an elite tackle in Indy, and he's one of the best, if not the best, as far as quarterbacks and pocket awareness go. He makes all linemen's jobs easier
- Freeing up cap space would allow Denver more room to lock up young stars Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, and key starters Wesley Woodyard and Zane Beadles.
- There are several quality tackles expected to hit the market this offseason, making the task of replacing Clady less difficult than it might normally be.
- It's two first-round picks, and depending upon the signing team, one or both could be high ones. What about San Diego?
- Manning's advanced age makes protecting him all the more important, and the window on his career is closing.
- Denver could also free up a load of cap space by cutting someone like Champ Bailey, who's eight years Clady's senior.
- The team won't be hurting for space once it cuts or reworks the deals of D.J. Williams and Joe Mays.
Think about it, Broncos fans - would you rather have Ryan Clady, or two first-rounders plus one of these guys?
Granted, it's possible that even if the team were to choose the non-exclusive tag, that no teams would bite. But still, it's a worthwhile thought exercise.
Update 1:40pm ET - Added arguments for and against using the non-exclusive tag